Why are organizations not including IAQ assessments within their H&S programs?

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Tamara Parris
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Community Manager of the EHSQ Community and owner of EHSQ Professionals group on LinkedIn. My passion is working with other environment, health & safety, and quality professionals to collaborate in thought leadership, networking with new people, and connecting industry peers to resources that drive continuous improvement in EHSQ.

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Q:Why are organizations not including IAQ assessments within their H&S programs?
A:

There are several reasons indoor air quality (IAQ) assessments may be left out of health and safety programs. From the lack of understanding by the organization’s leadership to its perceived costliness, IAQ assessments can easily be overlooked in favor of concerns that seem more pressing.

Businesses leaders may not understand the importance of IAQ or its correlation with employee health and workplace safety. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), poor IAQ is one of the top five environmental risks to health, and prolonged exposure can lead to a variety of negative health outcomes ranging from headaches and nosebleeds to dizziness, lethargy, and lung disease.

Simply considering the effects the symptoms such as these could have on employees should drive home the importance of IAQ assessments. We all know how difficult it is to be effective at our jobs when we're suffering from physical conditions such as a headache or breathing difficulties. Imagine what impact a daily physical conditions like these might have on your productivity over the course of a month. When employees are suffering from the effects of poor air quality it becomes a struggle to get through their work because they have lower energy which makes them less efficient, and results in lower production quality.

Companies tend to resist conducting a yearly IAQ assessments because of the perceived cost involved. It is key to build our business case on the time and money saved if we need to shut down the business. By performing IAQ assessments we are proactively mitigating unnecessary expenditures as well as seeing the bigger business needs of ensuring business operations can proceed as usual, while reducing the long-term effects of neglecting air quality. Poor IAQ leads to decreased productivity, increased illnesses and sick leave, and higher turnover rates which is more costly than the cost of maintaining the HVAC systems or ensuring a mold problem does not get out of hand. It is to see the business cost-saving measures of a routine IAQ assessments.

It is important for management to recognize IAQ as important for helping to operate a health workplace environment. By creating a team to monitor and track potential IAQ issues this will assist a company to get in front of issues before they become a risk which is problematic and costly.

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